Takeaways from the Muzzin Presser

In case you missed it, the Leafs made a pretty big trade yesterday, as they acquired Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings for Carl Grundstrom, the rights to Sean Durzi, and their 2019 1st round pick.

This trade has already been analyzed, but regardless, it’s a good deal for the Buds, as they got a cost controlled defenseman for a year and a half without giving up a roster player or a top prospect (Liljegren, Sandin, etc.).

Dubas had a media availability at 9pm last night, so let’s look into what was said, and what we can takeaway from it.

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Dubas Likes Muzzin’s Game

I mean, I’d sure hope that he likes Muzzin’s game, considering he traded for him, but he likes what skills he can add to the Leafs blueline.

Since the 2015-16 season, Jake Muzzin ranks 9th in the NHL among defensemen with at least 1000 minutes played with a 54.32% CF%. That’s second on the team behind Travis Dermott, but these are numbers put up in a top pairing role. Having Muzzin play alongside Rielly will not only improve Rielly’s play (as if it couldn’t get better this season), but will improve the Leafs d-core as a whole, but more on that later.

Acquiring Muzzin Means No More Ron Hainsey

His ability to play in all situations means that he can become Babcock’s go to guy for those big minutes on the blueline, someone who I’d trust to do a lot more than Ron Hainsey or Nikita Zaitsev.

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While we won’t have that ideal right handed defenseman play with Rielly, both Muzzin and Rielly have experience on the right side, so it won’t be overly problematic having them as the top pair. I’d imagine it will end up being Muzzin on his offside in the defensive zone, and Rielly on his offside in the offensive zone for the better shot, but who’s to say that Muzzin doesn’t have the better one timer.

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Dubas’ Has Been Talking with LA for a While Now

Unlike what it might seem on the surface, this isn’t a knee jerk reaction to Gardiner’s recent back spasms. The Leafs have the depth to deal with a Gardiner injury for the short term, with Dermott easily capable of a top four role, and Marincin being capable of filling in on the third pair.

While Dubas has been praising that this Leafs blueline is capable of competing, I’d imagine he had different pieces playing on it (Holl, Marincin) than what Babcock has been using. Also, he wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t searching the market for quality defensemen for relatively cheap prices, and Muzzin was exactly that. The fact that these talks have been going on since Christmas show that he’s been scouting his options, and that this might not be the only trade we see to make improvements on the blueline.

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The Extra Year Was Key for Dubas

Dubas has made it pretty clear so far that he doesn’t want to go for traditional rental pieces when adding at the deadline. While you could probably get players for cheaper with one year left, having a player for longer than a year gives you a bit more flexibility and keeps the window open.

Especially in the Leafs case, where half of their blueline up to this point (Hainsey, Gardiner, and Ozhiganov) all need new contracts after this season. Having a cost controlled (and cheap!) player on the blueline next season along with Rielly, Dermott, and Zaitsev gives the Leafs a bit less fear going into the offseason, and softens the blow from the inevitable Gardiner departure.

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